The disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien who earlier this year admitted sexual misconduct also blocked an investigation into sexual and physical abuse at a school, during his time at the Catholic Church in Scotland.
Cardinal O’Brien, 75, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February following accusations by several priests of inappropriate “sexual conduct”.
The former Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, wrote to the Tablet, saying that O’Brien, who was adamantly against gay rights, had blocked the investigation into the abuse, despite that several other bishops in Scotland thought it should go ahead.
Despite saying that he thought the number of priests involved in abuse at Fort Augustus School, Archbiship Conti said he would have alerted the authorities, if he had been told about the allegations at the time, when he was Bishop of Aberdeen. He held the post of Bishop of Aberdeen between 1977 and 2002.
He wrote: “It was the intention of all but one member of the bishops’ conference to commission an independent examination of the historical cases we had on file in all of our respective dioceses and publish the results but this was delayed by the objection of the then-President of the Conference; without full participation of all the dioceses the exercise would have been faulty.”
Noting that the allegations were now being looked into, he said: “I understand that in the light of the criticisms the Church has been facing, these audits will now be published.
“I think they will go some way towards confirming Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell’s remarks that the percentage of priests involved in abuse is ‘tiny’, and in demonstrating the seriousness and competence with which the Church in Scotland has been dealing with safeguarding in all its implications for many years.”
His letter addressed the allegations at the school, and despite not being “under the jurisdiction” of the Catholic Church in Scotland at the time, he said he still would have alerted the proper authorities. The school was part of the Benedictine community.
Continuing, he wrote: “If any of these allegations had been made to me while I was Bishop of Aberdeen from 1977 to 2002, I would have alerted the proper authorities to them.”
A statement from the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “Archbishop Conti’s letter refers to a decision taken in 2011 by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to commission an independent academic analysis of statistics relating to abuse and allegations of abuse over a 60 year period from 1952 to 2012.
“This project, with the cooperation of each of the eight dioceses in Scotland, started and ran until 2012, at which time, the then President of the Conference, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, withdrew from the project.
“Without the participation of all the dioceses a ‘National Audit’ was not possible so the analysis was stopped.”
In March, O’Brien admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him. A Vatican inquiry concluded in April – and no further action against Cardinal O’Brien was taken.